Edmonton

Incoming Edmonton police chief will review practice of not naming homicide victims

Incoming Edmonton police chief Dale McFee says he will review the police service's practice of sometimes withholding the names of homicide victims. McFee made the commitment while meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon at downtown police headquarters.

‘If there’s a need to know and a right to know, then I assure you that’s what I’m going to look into’

Dale McFee met with Edmonton media at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon. (Peter Evans/CBC News )

Incoming Edmonton police chief Dale McFee says he will review the police service's practice of sometimes withholding the names of homicide victims.

McFee made the commitment while meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon at downtown police headquarters. He answered questions on a wide range of issues, including the current practice of routinely refusing to name homicide victims.

In Edmonton so far this year, there have been 27 homicides. Police have identified 17 of the victims, but in the other 10 cases they refused to release names, arguing there was no investigative purpose to do so.

Last week, when officers discovered the bodies of two little girls who had been stabbed, the acting staff sergeant refused to release their names, along with the name of the accused. All the names became public later when they were uncovered in court documents.

McFee was asked if that incident caused him any concern.

"I'm not so sure I'd say I'm concerned as much as I would agree we need to look at this," McFee said. "Something that I'm committed to do when I'm here. It's a balance, right? There's the investigative balance, there's the balance in protecting the privacy of the citizens, and it's all on an individual basis.

"But I am committed to looking at this. Because there's also the value of the people needing to know those answers," he added. "If there's a need to know and a right to know, then I assure you that's what I'm going to look into and look at it from that perspective."

Official swearing-in Feb. 1

McFee is currently living in Saskatchewan, where he is serving as a deputy minister in the province's Justice department. He said he hopes to move to Edmonton early in the new year and has been house hunting with his wife.

McFee's predecessor, Rod Knecht, retired Oct. 31. McFee said he has not spoken to him.

"I look at this as coming into something new," he explained. "My focus has been on the people who are in the organization, not the people who have left the organization. I think first and foremost I need to talk to my own folks. Right from the ground up."

He said he looks forward to meeting with Edmonton's mayor, and considers it a priority to meet with minority and special interest groups.

"I've got outstanding relationships with many minority communities in Saskatchewan," McFee said. "I hope to replicate that here."

Tensions emerged towards the end of Knecht's tenure with the LGBTQ community. Knecht never attended a pride parade during his seven years as chief. In October, the Edmonton Police Service confirmed it was preparing an apology to LGBTQ people for past treatment of the community by the service.

McFee said if he was invited to participate in a pride parade and his schedule permitted it, he would "have no problem doing that."

Furthermore, McFee said he would have no problem issuing a formal apology to the LGBTQ community for past police treatment.

"That's something I know my police service is working on right now," McFee said. "It will be something I look at when I get here. But I'm not going to apologize until I actually understand what I'm apologizing for."

McFee said he's looking forward to beginning his new job and with an eye toward the future. He will make sure he builds a succession plan so that his eventual successor will come from within, he said.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston